The Quebec City police officer on trial for criminal negligence and dangerous driving causing death said he couldn't grasp what doctors were saying when they told him the cyclist he had run over with his cruiser minutes earlier had died.
Simon Beaulieu stood in the witness box on the third day of his trial at the Quebec City courthouse, breaking down at times while recounting the moments preceding Guy Blouin's death.
The officer was at the wheel of the police cruiser that backed up a one-way street, striking and killing Blouin, 48, on Sept. 3, 2014.
He said he and his partner jumped into the ambulance and accompanied Blouin to the hospital.
Beaulieu said the emergency room doctor informed him of Blouin's death at 1:25 p.m., just 20 minutes after the collision.
"I thought I was in a dream. I literally pinched myself," Beaulieu told Quebec court Judge René de la Sablonnière.
Sequence of events
Earlier Wednesday, Beaulieu testified that he was doing a routine patrol in the Saint-Roch neighbourhood when he saw Blouin biking towards him, up a one-way street in the wrong direction.
Beaulieu said he tried to intercept Blouin and parked diagonally to block Saint-François Street.
When Blouin rode around the car and ignored the police order to stop, Beaulieu said he suspected the cyclist might have been involved in two attempted bike thefts reported earlier that morning.
"In my experience, someone who doesn't stop has something to hide,'' Beaulieu said.
'I'm used to dealing with death, but this time I was the driver. I accompanied him from life to death. It's impossible for me too feel OK with this.' - Quebec City police Const. Simon Beaulieu
Once Blouin biked around the stopped cruiser and kept going, Beaulieu said he started backing up.
He said he could see Blouin cycling parallel to the sidewalk, when he turned around to look at the police car.
''He veered off more than I expected," Beaulieu testified. "That's when I hit the brakes."
Beaulieu said the braking system of the Ford Crown Victoria didn't respond as quickly as it normally should have, and the tires slid on the sidewalk.
Yves Brière, a crime scene reconstruction expert with the Sûreté du Québec, testified earlier in the trial that the car's anti-lock braking system seemed to work intermittently.
Brière had also estimated Beaulieu had been travelling in reverse at 44 km/h when the cruiser rolled over Blouin on the bicycle.
Beaulieu said this was impossible, saying the speed could not have exceeded 25 km/h.
The former provincial police officer said in the days following the incident, he used his personal vehicle to reverse and try to recreate the manoeuvre.
"When I reached 30 [km/h], it was way too fast for me," Beaulieu told de la Sablonnière.
The accused also confirmed he and his colleague did not activate the cruiser's lights and sirens before pursing Blouin.
During cross-examination, Crown prosecutor Michaël Bourget asked Beaulieu if he considered this could have been dangerous for other pedestrians or vehicles.
Beaulieu responded that he had a good view of the area and that police are asked to limit the use of sirens in residential areas such as Saint-Roch.
''He knew we wanted him to stop, there isn't a doubt in my mind,'' said Beaulieu.
'Horrible thing to witness'
Beaulieu said he heard Blouin scream and assumed he was stuck under the cruiser's fender and therefore inched forward before getting out of the vehicle with his partner.
Blouin was lying on the ground with leg and shoulder injuries, according to Beaulieu, and he was agitated, throwing insults and refusing help from the officers.
"He was not collaborating, so I tried telling him he was under arrest to get him to calm down,'' said Beaulieu.
A crowd had also started to gather around, many of whom also showed anger towards the officers, Beaulieu said.
"I understand it was a horrible thing to witness, I never thought I'd do something like this in my career,'' said Beaulieu, visibly emotional.
Victim died minutes later
When the ambulance arrived after the collision, "it seemed like a blessing to Blouin,'' who got up and quickly walked towards the paramedics, said Beaulieu.
Paramedic Isabelle Bouchard had testified earlier Wednesday that Blouin did indeed walk towards the ambulance on his own, followed by Beaulieu and his colleague.
Both officers accompanied Blouin to hospital because he was visibly agitated.
"He was tearing off our equipment as soon as we tried putting it on him," said Bouchard, explaining that Blouin slowed down quickly and lost consciousness soon afterwards, before being pronounced dead at Enfant-Jésus Hospital.
Beaulieu told the Crown he carried out his own investigation in the following days and discovered Blouin had purchased his bike at a local pawn shop.
"It's not my intention to have Mr. Blouin pass for a thief," Blouin said.
Sept. 3, 2014 was Beaulieu's last day as a patrol officer.
After taking a three-week leave, he was promoted to sergeant-detective, a position he had applied for before the incident.
He has been assigned to desk work since the charges were filed against him in 2015.
The trial resumes Thursday with the defence's last expert witness. It is expected to wrap up Monday.